Ministers are regularly required to make difficult and far reaching decisions. Having a grasp of the various basis for decision making helps ministers make wiser decisions. There are seven basis for good decision making: Instinct, Discernment, Facts, Logic, Policies, Experience and Opinion.
The first basis is using your instinct, or intuition. Often this is the first solution that comes to mind and may be all you have to work with if a decision needs to be made quickly. People use their intuition as a basis for decision making because it just “feels” like the right thing to do. In one national survey a high percentage of retired executives responded they wished they had followed their gut instinct more than relying on data in decision making.
For example, several applicants may appear qualified for an Executive Assistant position and the Pastor selects one of them based on a gut feeling they are more likely to be a good fit.
The disadvantage in this approach is that it appears to be a unique and personal gift and can’t be taught. Nor can one offer a clear and rational explanation to others for the way they feel.
The second basis for decision making is discernment. Some consider this a Spiritual Gift. In this sense discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically and is basic to having wisdom. Different from a gut feeling, discernment in decision making typically involves sensing a word from God and having a peace about the decision.
For example, during a sabbatical or spiritual retreat the Pastor discerns a direction for the church and upon his return shares with the church the vision he has received from God.
The disadvantage in using discernment is the challenge of consistently distinguishing the voice of the world from the voice of God. Discernment can also be abused when church leaders continually use “God told me” as the only rationale to support their decisions.
The third basis for decision making is using objective facts. Research, reports, data, eye witnesses, statistics, and results are all forms of objective information the minister can call upon to make wise decisions.
For example, after reviewing weekly attendance numbers for various Sunday School Classes, the Adult Minister determines to have two classes exchange meeting rooms.
The disadvantage in using facts as a basis for decision making is that it is sometimes difficult to determine which facts are relevant to the decision. More importantly, facts are gathered from the past and you cannot be certain they will apply in the future.
The fourth basis for decision making is using logic or reasoning. Here we apply common sense or some criteria or system for decision making. This can be as sophisticated as using computers or as simple as a listing of pluses and minuses to derive a decision.
For example, the Church Business Administrator chooses to outsource the church’s grounds upkeep after reviewing several vendor bids makes his decision based upon the criteria of frequency and pricing.
The disadvantage in using logic as a basis for decision making is you cannot know with certainty that the criteria, methods and principles upon which you are basing your decision are valid or relevant to the situation.
The fifth basis for decision making is that of policies. Using policies consists of applying the relevant written and unwritten policies of the church to the decision making process.
For example, a decision to accept or deny an outside group request to use the church facility is determined by comparing the request to the church’s Facility Use Policies.
The disadvantage in using policies in decision making is that policies don’t always fit the current circumstances or there may be no policy that applies to the decision. And, as with facts, policies were made based upon past experiences and decisions are future oriented.
The sixth basis for decision making is experience. Specifically, the past experience of the decision maker or decision makers.
For example, a Youth Minister determines to schedule a Youth Retreat during Spring Break based upon his past experience that this is the time when he can have the greatest participation.
The disadvantage in using experience in decision making is that you may not have experience relevant to the decision. Experience can also be misinterpreted and misapplied, potentially leading to a poor decision. And, once again, experience happened in the past and decisions should be based upon the future.
The last basis for decision making is that of public opinion. Typically this involves polling or surveying of key stakeholders or church members.
For example, a church wide survey is used to determine if members would be receptive to a change in the Sunday morning worship schedule.
The disadvantage in using opinion as a basis for decision making is that the group polled may not be sufficiently informed to make complex decisions. And, surveys tend to reflect personal preference which may or may not be in the best interest of the organization.
These six basis for decision making demonstrate the challenge in consistently making good decisions. Most information we use in making decision is based upon the past while decisions impact the future. Relevance and subjectivity also come into play. Understanding the various basis for decision making, being mindful of their disadvantages, and selecting the right basis or combination of basis will help you make better decisions.
Posted on October 11, 2016